Do you know someone who has a nose like Pinocchio? Or maybe a nose that reminds you of Rudolph? Germans would call such noses a Riechkolben!
The term comes from the words riechen (“to smell”) and Kolben (which best translates to “conk” – a colloquial term for nose). A Riechkolben defines a very large or swollen nose – one that catches your attention. Perhaps someone with a Riechkolben is suffering from a cold and has a red and oversized nose, perhaps someone got hit in the face, or perhaps someone just has a naturally large nose. Whatever the reason, you’re more likely to describe that large object on their face as a Riechkolben than a Nase (“nose”).
It’s probably not the nicest way to refer to someone’s nose. After all, who wants to be acknowledged for having a Rudolph-sized nose on their face?
But it is not always an insult in German. The term Riechkolben is also a medical one: it is a synonym for the olfactory bulb, a neural structure that is involved in creating a sense of smell. The olfactory bulb is located at the bottom of the brain – not the nose. So in this regard, the Riechkolben has nothing to do with the size of one’s nose and simply describes a part of the human anatomy.
Most Germans, however, will use it to describe what they see.
By Nicole Glass, German Embassy